Branching Sideway

If you keenly observe the movement in the camera industry, you would notice a pattern.

Big-name camera makers typically have three types of product families: consumer, prosumer and professional. Each of the family lineage are usually identified with numbering patterns, for the prosumer and professional products, camera makers often stick to primary, single digits, case in point: Leica, Nikon and Canon.

Leica’s M uses a single digit number up until the M9 (the M10 is the first model since its christening to not use a number). Nikon methodically adapts Leica’s naming format with their F, and now D series professional SLR cameras, the D1 was its first model, and the D6 would be tomorrow’s model if they don’t follow Leica’s path like they did decades ago.

But Canon hasn’t been so religious with their product naming.

Canon’s high-end professional camera model has been, and will always be the Canon EOS 1. The original EOS 1 was a film camera, and every subsequent new models retain the “1” suffix with countless derrivetives: 1N, 1N RS, 1v, and later their first all-digital EOS DCS 1 (the short-lived Digital Camera System join-opt with Kodak), EOS 1D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark II N, 1D Mark III, 1D Mark IV, noticed the pattern?

Nope. You missed the 1Ds, their first full-frame professional Digital SLR. 1Ds Mark II, 1Ds Mark III, 1Ds Mark…, oops, 1DX, and 1DC. Exactly. Canon is a loose canon when it comes to naming their cameras. Don’t even start with their consumer pockets, it’s a mess. A god-damned mess.

They recently jumped from G12 to G15 after missing G8, jumping from G7 to G9 not so long ago, also, they introduced the G1X earlier this year. What happened with that?

Up in the alley, they have this not-so-consumery, ‘budget’ professional series SLR, not one, but two lineages, the single-digit EOS 5, EOS 3 & its digital sibblings, then there’s the two-digit prosumer models.

I’d love to be in the meeting where they decide these naming schemes. It sounds like they’re fooling us with their jokes the same way we play God in the growing list of God Games. Less is more applies to Canon’s numerical product nomenclature (pun intended there, get it?), those closer to 1 is better, newer.

Or not.

When the rumors hit that they’re working on the mythical EOS 3D — the digital iteration of one of the best camera ever made by Canon, the EOS 3 — people were surprised when the 7D came out. On paper they don’t look better than the 5D, but in real, they are a much better-designed camera than any previous prosumer DSLR models Canon ever built. Nearly all of the quirks of early non-pro Canon EOSes were squashed; better shutter, focusing screen overlay, 100% viewfinder coverage, more logical button layout: all checked. But the thing is that the 7D features a pop-up built-in flash that previously only the two-digit EOS bare (the D30, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D and 60D all carries a pop-up distraction light).

The 7D was a breakthrough for Canon in many ways, and I suspected then that future Canon EOS will carries this same new DNA, but the 6D has proven me wrong:

One of the big attractions of full frame SLRs is the viewfinder, and the EOS 6D offers the kind of large, bright view that will come as a revelation to photographers who’ve previously only shot with APS-C cameras. Its magnification is ~0.7x, similar to other full frame Canons, and while the coverage is ‘only’ 97%, this tends to be more of a theoretical than practical disadvantage in real-world use.

Unlike recent high-end Canons like the EOS 7D, 5D Mark III and 1D X, the 6D doesn’t use an LCD overlay on the focusing screen to show gridlines etc. Instead it offers interchangeable focusing screens, using the same type as the EOS 5D Mark II. On offer are the Eg-D grid screen, or the Eg-S screen that’s designed for more-precise manual focus with fast lenses.

The 6D introduces new button/camera layout, the on/off switch is moved to the top by the dial, and the depth of field preview button is moved to the right direction with significant improvement. But beyond that, it has built-in Wi-fi and GPS, and no words on whether it has the remote flash trigger like the 7D.

So this is a loose some, win some situation, you gain the full-frame awesomeoness, but will miss the 100% frame coverage other Canon full-framers & the 7D offer. You loose all the weight with the smaller dimension, and you gain it all back replacing those EF-S lenses with pricier L optics.

This, to me, is like the imminent arrival of the much-rumored smaller iPad. Instead of following a recent ‘pattern’ it branches out to a new sea of possibilities & unpredictability. It may not be ideal, and it won’t be a happy news to many, but nonetheless it’s a much more interesting path to grow into.

So maybe you don’t notice the pattern at all, or you don’t need to. And it’s fine. Perfectly fine.